Integration testing was in full progress using the integration test plans. Stakeholders were heavily involved in testing. One of the stakeholders in the order processing department was very unhappy about the way special orders were being handled in the system. He complained to everyone he saw that the new system was worse than the old system, and the QA team and business analysts were getting annoyed by his complaints. The connectivity testing between CSM and Buslog was not going as planned. On the CSM side, since they had a networking person on the team, it was convenient to deal with network issues between the two companies. But, on the Buslog side, the networking people were in a different location and there were communications issues. The developers were getting impatient. Many members of the team were showing the stress of attempting to complete the project on time.
Uma and Bob were wondering what to do to boost the morale of the team and improve the process. They decided to have a day to celebrate all the completed milestones of the project and make the team members feel good. They also had to figure out how to solve the problems and reduce tensions. They decided to meet with the stakeholders and team members separately to identify issues and solutions. They also decided to talk to the project manager and sponsor at Buslog to identify their issues in connectivity testing.
Project leaders must work to keep the project team, client, suppliers, executive management, and themselves motivated. Uma and Bob were appropriate as far as they went by noticing problems and creating ways to celebrate milestone completion. Some organizations do not take time to celebrate the completion of important milestones. Properly executed, these celebrations can really help lift the team's morale. Bob and Uma also tried to identify issues and develop solutions in a participative manner with their team.
Celebrations do not solve all problems, however. The issue here is a real one; each team has different resources and different needs. Uma and Bob need to suggest creative ways of solving the actual problems. Once they are solved and appropriate milestones are met, a celebration of the group's choosing may well be appropriate.
Project leaders should keep a number of broad considerations in mind as they attempt to keep up project team morale:
Project leaders need to spend time meeting people and communicating their vision for the project. They also need to hear and reinforce the visions each stakeholder brings to the project. This can be an effective, proactive way of maintaining morale.
Project leaders should use empowerment (as Uma and Bob usually do) instead of fear. In the heat of the moment, when people are trying to meet critical deadlines, it is sometimes tempting for a project leader to order, threaten, or coerce actions. While this may feel like it is solving a near-term problem, it often makes morale more difficult to maintain.
Project leaders who have a track record of success or can give their teams other reasons to believe that all will be okay have something tangible to offer. People need to have specific solutions to keep up their morale.
Project leaders often do not immediately understand all that their team members are trying to tell them. It sometimes behooves a project leader to become a better listener, often a follower, until they do understand. This can be very motivating for the team member who takes the lead in the situation.
Project leaders need to understand that conflict is often the cause of poor morale. The ability to identify and resolve conflict is critical for project leaders. Wise project leaders understand that some conflict—that is, conflict that can energize people with alternative approaches to consider—can be beneficial. However, conflict that becomes too intense and personal can be detrimental to project success.
Project leaders need to be able to diagnose and manage stress both in themselves and in others. Projects can be highly charged activities with tight timelines, severe constraints, and high expectations. While some people thrive in this environment, others find it very stressful. Project leaders need to develop methods of relieving their own stress (e.g., yoga, poker, running) and to encourage team members to do the same.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept that projects can be hard work with stressful periods
Have the courage to confront problems and celebrate success
Exercise the wisdom to understand when each is important and appropriate.